Last weekend Aaron and I visited my parents and I got my puppy fix satisfied in the form of Chiquita and Chiya. Being the lovey dog she is, Chiquita believes that no guest should sleep alone or wander the house unescorted.
Today is National Dog Day! While I may have cats currently, I am in fact an equal opportunity pet enthusiast. For many years my family had Miniature Schnauzers and I still harbor an enormous soft spot for that breed. Dogs do so much for their humans, so it is only natural that we take some time today (and every day!) to celebrate and love our canine companions.
My parents now have two rescue dogs: Chiquita (aka Chica and Pretty Girl), a Kooikerhondje, and Chiya, a Tibetan Spaniel.
Look how cute they are! Chica is an extraordinarily good girl with great manners and an earnest, loving personality. Chiya is a sassy little diva. Both are highly snuggleable, as I can attest.
In addition to their two cats, my Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Jan have an unlikely trio of rescues: a Border Collie (Legend), a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix (Storm), and a Great Pyrenees (Kuma).
Legend is…enthusiastic to say the least. Who could resist that face?
Storm is a big, lovable galoot. His tail can clear a coffee table in one swipe. He thinks he’s Chiya’s size, which leads to hilarity.
Kuma (Japanese for “bear”) looks like a canine polar bear! Check out that fluff!
Do you have dogs? What do you love about them? Please share in the comments!
Happy World Sleep Day!
Guess what’s going on at my house right now? Nothing. My house is the place of inaction because there are three happily snoozing cats in it. I could nearly see the z’s floating off of them. I’ve always wondered what my cats dream about.
Being hunters by nature, cats tend to be more active around dawn and dusk (crepuscular). They sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, with some cats sleeping as many as 20 hours a day. Kittens and older cats tend to sleep more than younger cats. Of course, we have the idiom catnap from our feline friend’s ability to snooze for brief periods of time.
Boudicca likes to snooze, birdwatch, and sunbathe on the window seat in my office. The boys like it too.
I have not timed how much my three cats sleep in a given day and night but they sleep a lot and take their sleep seriously. Everyone seems to take at least one nap in the morning and a longer nap in the afternoon, especially the boys have their 1 o’clock zoomies and scamper session. Maybe they schedule pre- and post-naps as well. I know that the boys, at least, are awake for part of the night because I hear them playing. (They often choose to bat around a jingling ball right around the time we’re going to bed.) Boudicca heads to bed the same time we do. Given her age, she does seem to rest more than the boys do but she is also always down for lap time!
Notice the layers. It is a baby pink bed with a pink blanket inside a box. I had purchased this bed for Queen B and put it on the floor for her; she refused to use it. I put it in a box and instantly she claimed it as hers. She becomes upset at me when I take off the blanket it clean it. This is her supurrviser spot in my office.
Each of the cats has a distinct preference for a sleeping spot, although each will change it up or grab an odd choice, like a scratching pad every now and then. Boudicca usually opts for her pink bed in the bedroom, the couch, her box bed in my office (see above photo), or the window seat. The Downton Tabbies have their orange bed (they like to share), the overstuffed chair, the rolling car seat (Aaron outfitted these for video game use), the ottoman, or the cat tree. During the day they sometimes commandeer the bed and snuggle. At least once a day I catch a snuggle in progress. It’s adorable.
Garrus found a meditating/catnap/sunbathing spot on a scratching pad near the sliding glass door.
Generally speaking, the cats don’t sleep in the bed with us for long periods of time. We might bring Boudicca into the bed with us for a snuggle but she usually leaves after a couple of ours. I’ve briefly woken up in the middle of the night to discover that Charlie had surreptitiously crept up onto the bed and curled up behind my knees to sleep. I find it soothing to fall asleep with a purring cat next to me. Boudicca and the boys are polite and don’t bother us by caterwauling at unholy hours of the night. Depending on your cat’s behavior and your individual sleep needs, sleeping with your kitty may or may not help your own sleep hygiene. Additionally, there are a few things to consider about pet safety.
Garrus is quite fond of his blue elephant Pillow Pet.
The Downton Tabbies lounge on the worn car seat. Their new orange bed is shown beneath.
On the other hand, there are many cats that view the night as the prime opportunity for shenanigans: flopping on your head, tearing around the house, getting into ALL the mischief, attacking your feet, yowling, playing with the loudest toys, and starting blood feuds with every pet in the neighborhood. Wild antics can disrupt even a veteran cat owner’s sleep but do not give up hope! Cats, believe it or not, can learn to sleep at night. Adding play sessions during the day can tire your cat out and thereby discourage such lively romps at night. Cats learn so much through play, including manners and boundaries; they also build trust and confidence. Teaching a cat manners (such as bite inhibition) is vital to having a well socialized companion.
Garrus and Charlie like to be high up in the cat tree. When we first put up the cat tree, Charlie spent a lot of time in the cubby; he spends less time in there now.
Sleep hygiene is important for dogs too! Given that dogs are pack animals and very different creatures than cats, their sleep needs vary. Certain breeds can develop sleep disorders, just like humans; brachycephalic airway syndrome and narcolepsy are two examples.
For many years, my family had Miniature Schnauzers as pets, as I’ve mentioned before. As you may or may not know, Schnauzers, like many other types of dogs, have a habit of “nesting” in their beds. This, and the tendency to sleep pressed very close to my parents legs disrupted my parents’ sleep so they trained the dogs to sleep in their own bed. Although it took a bit of work, we were happy with the end result. Since we lived in Minnesota at the time, during the winter the dogs were very insistent in reminding us to turn on a heating pad under the cushions for 20 minutes before bedtime (we turned it off before we went to sleep)! The dogs also liked to snooze on the back of the couch.
Now my parents have Chiquita, a Kooikerhondje, and Chiya, a Tibetan Spaniel. Chiya is not as brachycephalic as, say, a French bulldog, but she does snore a bit when she sleeps. Chiquita twitches while she dreams sometimes.
Chiquita does not believe that guests should sleep alone.
Is it nap time yet?
Egads! I missed Change a Pet’s Life Day! (Things have been a little hectic because Boudicca was sick on Tuesday. Thankfully, she is getting better now.)
Change a Pet’s Life Day (belated) is a pet holiday celebrated on January 24 and intended to encourage adopting pets from shelters and consequently, raising awareness for animal shelters. As a shelter volunteer, I can testify that there are so many wonderful animals that need loving homes. There are pets that would do well with new pet owners and others that would thrive with experienced pet owners. There are young, old, middle-aged, everywhere in between. If you are not a cat or dog person, shelters often have other pets that might strike your fancy such as guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, rabbits, and even pigs and chickens. Here is how you can change a pet’s life:
- Adopt. Head to your local shelter and adopt a pet! Many shelters offer special discounts on January 24th while others will hold adoption events throughout the week or on the weekend. Rescue groups will probably have similar events so be sure to look for these. (NB: Adoption is a commitment. One should not adopt a pet without really being sure that this is what you want and that you will be able to care for this pet.)
- Foster. Unsure if you want to commit to having a pet? Does your shelter need temporary homes due to space or other needs, such as a pregnant cat or dog? Giving a shelter animal a foster home is a demonstration of compassion and generosity. Whether you foster one time or do it regularly, it does make a difference in pets’ lives!
- Donate. Find out what your shelter needs. Does the shelter have a wish list or a Friends of the Animal Shelter organization that could provide this information? Food, toys, collars, leashes, scratch pads or poles, and carriers are commonly asked for items. Money, of course, is always immensely appreciated because it can be used for whatever the shelter needs at the time or for future use.
- Volunteer. Do you like to be involved in your community? Do you love animals? Volunteering is a fantastic way to change pets lives on a continuing basis. I enjoy having the opportunity to love on and socialize cats and help out at adoption events so that these lovely kitties get matched to the right homes.
- Transform your pet’s life. Would your pet benefit from more exercise or attention? Would a play date with another cat or dog or a new toy make your pet’s day? I’m fairly certain that one of the highlights of Boudicca’s day is when she gets her lap time session in the evening. The boys are equally thrilled by visits and play time.
Rescued Pets in My Life
This is Chiya! She is one of my parents’ two rescue dogs. She is a sassy and independent Tibetan Spaniel. Originally her name was Holly but my mom changed it to Chiya, which is Spanish slang for “crier,” in honor of her distinctive shrill alarm bark. (Tibetan Spaniels were bred to be watchdogs as well as canine companions.) She excels at being a foot warmer too.
Here is dog #2, Chiquita! (We call her Chica for short.) She is a Kooikerhondje, which I promise is a dog breed that I did not make up. My parents took her in after her previous owner became very ill with cancer and shortly thereafter passed away. Look at those marvelous ears and that tail! She is such a well-behaved dog and an excellent snuggler as well.
Last year, I volunteered at the Clear the Shelters event on August 19 at my local animal shelter. I intended to show cats and match them to new owners. I did not intend to take home a new cat, let alone two, but I am SO GLAD that we decided to foster and later adopt Charlie and Garrus. They have made a lot of progress since then and both are happier, healthier cats.
In this photo you can see hints of how skinny and scraggly Garrus (then known as Aristotle) was. When he stood up, swaths of fur along his sides were missing (licked it off due to stress in the shelter) and in general his coat looked haggard. He was so skinny that his ribs and knobbly spine were clearly visible. Both he and Charlie looked SO pitiful at the shelter. We quickly learned that Garrus was not eating much and in a lot of pain due to dental issues, which we promptly fixed.
This was the first time Charlie (then known as Tink) emerged from behind or underneath furniture for a significant length of time. A huge scaredy cat when we brought him home, he was highly reactive to people (us), sudden movements, many noises, new objects, and any change. Both boys bolted whenever we stood up; they would only timidly approach if we sat down on the floor and remained very quiet.
Fast forward four months: here are the boys sprawled in the sun. (I took this photo in late December 2017.) Rather than fleeing when I approached, they stretched, slow blinked, trilled and squeaked (Charlie), welcomed scritches, and purred.
Lastly, look at Queen B! In November 2000, a lovey five-month old tuxedo kitten chose ME as her person at the ASPCA. Seventeen years later she is still my girl!
How can YOU change a pet’s life today?
While I have three cats, I also love dogs. Growing up, the family pets were Miniature Schnauzers. For a several years, Boudicca and (the late) Nala grew from kittenhood to adult cathood and shared living space with our last two Schnauzers, Rabita and Dottie. These two dogs taught Boudicca how to employ the famous Schnauzer Mind Meld (“you will give me the delicious morsel in your hand”).
Rabita and Dottie have since passed over the Rainbow Bridge, having lived to ripe old ages of 17 and 15, respectively. My parents now have two very different rescue dogs, a Tibetan Spaniel and a Kooikerhondje. The former was originally named Holly but was quickly renamed Chiya (Puerto Rican Spanish slang for “crier” due to her distinctive shrill bark). Here she is (believe it or not, she does have a sassy plume of a tail):
The Kooikerhondje’s given name is Chiquita, often shortened to Chica. I’ve been known to refer to the pups collectively as the ChiChis. Chica also responds to Pretty Girl (to which she will wag her tail and look quite pleased with herself) and, among other nicknames, Kida or Kidagakash (a name I’ve appropriated from the heroine of the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire). Here she is being absolutely cute:
Aren’t they adorable? Whenever I visit my parents, I get my puppy fix and love on these two.